Rocket Attack Kills

An Israeli Woman

JERUSALEM -- A 22-year-old Israeli woman was killed and her boyfriend seriously wounded Thursday when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck her house in Israel.

The armed wing of Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, asserted responsibility for the rocket strike. So did the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a faction of the ruling Fatah movement.

Israeli soldiers had killed an al-Aqsa commander earlier in the day in a raid in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Israel responded to the woman's death with helicopter attacks early Friday against four sites in Gaza, witnesses told the Associated Press. Three missiles struck a Hamas cultural center in northern Gaza. In the south, helicopters fired on two sites used by Palestinians to launch rockets. The helicopters then fired at a metal workshop in central Gaza.

On Thursday, four Qassam rockets landed in the town of Netiv Haasara, a few miles outside Gaza's northern border. Palestinian leaders have said the village should be part of a future Palestinian state.

Such attacks have become more frequent as Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, set to begin next month, has drawn closer. But this was the first fatality from a Qassam rocket since a cease-fire was announced in February by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We lay this at the door of the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen," said Zalman Shoval, a Sharon adviser, using Abbas's nickname. "Not because we think they did it. But by refusing to go after the terrorists . . . he is responsible."

Hours after the rocket attack, Abbas put Palestinian security forces in Gaza on high alert. Witnesses said Palestinian police later clashed with Hamas gunmen in the town of Beit Lahiya. Four Palestinians were wounded, one critically.

Also Thursday, the death toll in a Palestinian suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Netanya on Tuesday rose to five when a soldier died.

-- Scott Wilson


* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Four al Qaeda militants who escaped from a U.S. detention center in Afghanistan on Monday have reached a Taliban haven, a purported spokesman for the rebel movement said.

Abdul Latif Hakimi, whose information has often proved unreliable, declined to say where the escapees were. The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency quoted an unnamed Taliban spokesman as saying the men were in the south of the country.

The U.S. military said it was pressing an "aggressive" hunt for the four, who escaped at Bagram air base, north of Kabul.

* BANGKOK -- Suspected Islamic separatists set off five bombs and exchanged gunfire with security personnel in Muslim-dominated southern Thailand, killing a police officer and wounding 19 other people.


* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The body of a Haitian journalist abducted last weekend was found in Port-au-Prince, the capital. Jacques Roche was the first journalist seized in a wave of kidnappings for ransom. Police say more than 450 people have been abducted since March.

-- From News Services